Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Best Way To Test For Genital Herpes

Which Herpes Test Should You Get

An All Natural OTC Topical Product for Genital Herpes Outbreak Symptoms

Each method of testing for herpes has advantages and disadvantages, from time and cost, to an increased possibility of false results. Often, people concerned about the virus use a range of herpes testing to get a more accurate, proven picture of whether or not theyre infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2.

Since herpes is a lifelong infection that cant be cured, its important to discuss testing options with your healthcare provider and make sure you receive an accurate result. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you more about the best options for herpes testing based on your symptoms and situation.

Typically, your healthcare provider will carry out a physical exam before choosing the best testing method for you. As herpes symptoms tend to be worst during the initial outbreak of the virus, its best to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you start experiencing symptoms.

In the event that you do have herpes, theres no need to panic. Both oral and genital herpes are extremely common, and a variety of effective treatments are available for both.

Our Valacyclovir 101 guide goes into more detail about one of the most common, effective drugs for treating both symptomatic and asymptomatic herpes. You can also learn more about the risk of catching herpes in our guide to how herpes is transmitted between people.

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When Should You Consider Getting Tested

Herpes is a sneaky, deceitful virus. It hides deep inside your nerve cells for unpredictable periods of time before triggering visible symptoms. In many cases, it infects the body and spreads to others without any obvious signs at all. As many as 90 percent of people infected with herpes are unaware they have the virus because theyve never experienced an outbreak.

People who dont have symptoms are more likely to transmit the herpes virus through a phenomenon known as asymptomatic shedding. This occurs when the virus sheds from the skin and spreads to others, even when no sores are present. Asymptomatic shedding is undetectable as there are no signs or symptoms, but it’s real.

According to research, at least 70% of infected people experience asymptomatic shedding of HSV-1 at least once a month. Many may even shed the herpes virus without symptoms more than six times per month.

Given that the herpes virus doesnt always trigger outbreaks and symptoms, testing is an important way to monitor your health. The CDC recommends testing if you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to herpes or if you recently had sex with a new partner who has genital herpes.

Remember, its possible that early herpes symptoms may not seem related to herpes. An initial herpes outbreak causes flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever and chills. These symptoms may be paired with pain, itching and redness around the affected area.

Is There A Cure For Herpes

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for either type of herpes. Once you are infected, you are usually a carrier for life.

Its not all bad news, though! Herpes symptoms can be treated and relieved with the proper medication. These can lower the frequency of your outbreaks and relieve the pain that comes with the symptoms. These treatments can also shorten the amount of time that each outbreak lasts. Some can even make it less likely for the HSV infection to be passed on to your partner.

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Polymerase Chain Reaction Test

As with the viral culture, your doctor swabs or scrapes a sample from one of your sores. A lab gets the sample and looks for genes from the herpes virus. PCR test results usually come back to you within 24 hours.

Youre more likely to get this test if you have symptoms but its been longer than 48 hours since they showed up. In this case, you can rely on the results from this test more than the viral culture.

How To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes

is this herpes? im really nervous.

Although herpes is a lifelong virus that cant be cured, it goes through periods of dormancy between outbreaks. This means that while the virus is still present, its not actively replicating.

During this time, you may not experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease even if youve had a previous outbreak before.

However, you can still spread the herpes virus to your sexual partners at any time, even if no sores are present. In addition, although rare, its possible to spread oral herpes to the genital region and vice versa.

For this reason, its extremely important to be mindful of the following preventive measures:

  • Tell your partners that you have genital or oral herpes. This allows them to make informed decisions about their own sexual health, and its the responsible thing to do.
  • If youre experiencing the signs and symptoms of an upcoming outbreak, avoid all sexual contact. Youre most likely to spread the virus to others during an outbreak.
  • Its possible to spread the herpes virus even without an outbreak. If youre worried about spreading the disease to a partner, research shows that antivirals are effective at reducing this possibility.

Having oral or genital herpes doesnt mean that you can no longer have sex. However, its your responsibility to prevent the spread of herpes to your sexual partner.

If you have herpes, you can still take care of your sexual health through open communication and safer sex.

Read Also: What Is The Best Genital Herpes Medication

How Can I Best Learn To Cope With Herpes Simplex

Some people feel distressed or embarrassed about their herpes simplex infection. Its important to understand that the herpes virus is common. For most people, herpes doesnt significantly interfere with daily life.

To cope with negative feelings, you may consider:

  • Connecting with others through support groups or online forums.
  • Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
  • Speaking with a therapist.

How Is Herpes Simplex Treated

Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.

During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.

Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:

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What Happens During A Herpes Test

If you have blisters or sores, your doctor or nurse will gently take a sample of fluid from the sores with a swab and test it.

If you dont have any sores, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether a blood test for herpes makes sense for you. But herpes tests aren’t normally recommended unless you do have symptoms.

The idea of getting tested may seem scary, but try to chill out. STD testing is a regular part of being a responsible adult and taking care of your health. And herpes tests are quick and usually painless.

Accuracy By Test Type

Herpes and Pregnancy

Two blood tests are used to screen for herpes. To ensure that an initial positive result is correct, a second test using a different method of detection is used to confirm the results.

The first test is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay . An ELISA looks for immune proteins, called antibodies, that are produced by the immune system in response to the HSV. HSV antibodies are present even when there are no symptoms.

If the ELISA result is positive, your healthcare provider may administer a Western blot assay. This second test looks for proteins on the surface of the virus, called antigens, which serve as the virus’ “ID tag.” HSV antibodies produced in response to these antigens help the immune system target its attack.

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the accuracy of the two blood used to diagnose herpes breaks down as follows:

Test
Over 99% Over 99%

Due to its high level of sensitivity and specificity, the Western blot is considered the gold standard of herpes blood testing.

With that said, the accuracy of the tests can be affected by the timing of the tests. For an ELISA to return an accurate result, the immune system needs to produce enough antibodies to reach detectable levels.

Testing too early during the so-called window period can end up causing a false-negative result .

Also Check: How To Stop Herpes Outbreak On Lips

What Is Neonatal Herpes

Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.

Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.

The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.

Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby

If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, prenatal care visits are very important. Some research suggest that a genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage or make it more likely to deliver your baby too early. You can pass herpes to your unborn child before birth, but it more commonly passes during delivery. This can lead to a deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting genital herpes during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a genital herpes diagnosis or symptoms. Also tell them about any possible exposure to genital herpes.

If you have genital herpes, you may need to take anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes when you deliver. At the time of delivery, your healthcare provider should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes at delivery, a C-section is likely to occur.

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Management Of Sex Partners

The sex partners of persons who have symptomatic genital herpes can benefit from evaluation and counseling. Symptomatic sex partners should be evaluated and treated in the same manner as patients who have symptomatic genital herpes. Asymptomatic sex partners of patients who have symptomatic genital herpes should be asked about a history of genital symptoms and offered type-specific serologic testing for HSV-2. For partners without genital herpes, no data are available on which to base a recommendation for PEP or PrEP with antiviral medications or that they would prevent acquisition, and this should not be offered to patients as a prevention strategy.

Why The Test Is Performed

Does this look like herpes?

The test is done to find out whether a person has ever been infected with oral or genital herpes. It looks for antibodies to herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 . An antibody is a substance made by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances such as the herpes virus. This test does not detect the virus itself.

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Will I Have To Pay For The Test Out Of Pocket

Youll have to check with your insurance network to see whether at-home STI tests are covered.

Insurance does typically cover them, but sites like Everlywell recommend verifying the purchase with your insurance.

Additionally, some networks may reimburse you for your purchase.

However, most at-home testing sites arent currently partnered with any insurance companies, which means youll have to reach out yourself.

If you dont have insurance, youll likely have to pay for the test out of pocket. Some sites like Priority STD dont accept insurance, so its a flat rate of $99 regardless of your coverage.

How Long Do Sores From Herpes Simplex Last

If youre infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.

If youre infected with HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes, your first outbreak may last between two to four weeks. Recurrent outbreaks usually last between three to seven days.

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How Does Herpes Simplex Spread

Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.

People may get HSV-1 through

  • Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
  • Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
  • If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.

People may get HSV-2 through

  • Oral sex with someone whos infected.
  • Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
  • Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.

You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.

Does My Healthcare Provider Include A Blood Test For Genital Herpes When They Test Me For Everything

Herpes Simplex

Herpes blood tests may or may not be part of the tests your healthcare provider gives you. They may choose tests based on several factors .

They will also evaluate you for signs or symptoms of herpes to choose which tests to use. This is why its important to talk openly and honestly with your provider during your visit. Ask them which infections they are and are not testing you for and why.

Additional Resources

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How To Read Your Results

Your HSV test results will likely be reported as negative or positive :

  • Negative. The herpes virus was not found. However, you may still have an HSV infection if your results were negative. It may mean the sample didnt have enough virus to be detected. If you still have symptoms of herpes, you may need to order another test.
  • Positive. HSV was found in your sample. It may mean you have an active infection or contracted the virus in the past .

If your test results are positive for HSV, talk with a doctor about your next steps.

Suppressive Therapy For Recurrent Hsv

Suppressive therapy reduces frequency of genital herpes recurrences by 70%80% among patients who have frequent recurrences . Persons receiving such therapy often report having experienced no symptomatic outbreaks. Suppressive therapy also is effective for patients with less frequent recurrences. Long-term safety and efficacy have been documented among patients receiving daily acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir . Quality of life is improved for many patients with frequent recurrences who receive suppressive therapy rather than episodic treatment . Providers should discuss with patients on an annual basis whether they want to continue suppressive therapy because frequency of genital HSV-2 recurrence diminishes over time for many persons. However, neither treatment discontinuation nor laboratory monitoring is necessary because adverse events and development of HSV antiviral resistance related to long-term antiviral use are uncommon.

Valacyclovir 500 mg orally 2 times/day for 3 daysOR

Valacyclovir 1 gm orally once daily for 5 days

*Acyclovir 400 mg orally 3 times/day is also effective, but are not recommended because of frequency of dosing.

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Herpes Pcr Tests Very Accurate

A PCR test can be done on cells or fluid from an active sore and is more sensitive than typical lab culture tests. PCR finds the genetic material of the HSV virus and can tell the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2. Although this test may be more expensive than lab cultures, it is definitely more accurate and less likely to result in a false negative or false positive. However, you still need to get tested while you are having an active outbreak, or else the HSV cells may no longer be present on the surface of your skin.

Can Women Who Have Sex With Women Get Genital Herpes

Does this look like herpes?

Yes. It is possible to get genital herpes, or any other STI, if you are a woman who has sex only with women.

Talk to your partner about her sexual history before having sex, and ask your doctor or nurse about getting tested if you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes. Use a dental dam during oral sex and avoid sexual activity during an outbreak.

Read Also: Can You Get Herpes If You Wear Protection

Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes

You may be prescribed:

  • antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
  • cream for the pain

If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.

You Got A Positive Herpes Test Now What

If you receive a positive herpes test, start by educating yourself about the herpes virus. There are many pervasive herpes myths that you shouldnt believe. The truth is that herpes is treatable and outbreaks can even be minimized or prevented with the right treatment measures.

Genital herpes and cold sores can both be addressed with a variety of household remedies, over-the-counter options, and prescription medications.

Acyclovir, for example, is an antiviral medication that treats infections caused by the herpes simplex virus, including genital herpes. Its best to start taking acyclovir as soon as you notice the first signs of an emerging outbreak. This medication stops the herpes virus from growing and spreading during an outbreak, although it cannot remove the virus from your body completely. Most people experience relief within just a few days of taking acyclovir.

If youre looking for a natural therapy to control herpes outbreaks, the Luminance RED is another option. The Luminance RED handheld devices shine red wavelengths of light over the skin of affected areas. The company has one device designed for oral herpes and one for genital herpes.

Medically-optimized red light is metabolized to accelerate the bodys healing process and strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Studies show that regular use of high-powered light treatment not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks but can also prevent future outbreaks altogether.

Read Also: How To Treat Herpes Outbreak At Home

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